Jon Batiste performs onstage during the 2021 Global Citizen Live: New York on Sept. 25, 2021, in New York.
CREDIT: John Lamparski/Getty Images/TNS)
By Angelique Jackson
After dominating the Grammy Awards with five wins, including album of the year, Jon Batiste is set to conquer a new medium — acting. The musician has joined the cast of “The Color Purple,” directed by Blitz Bazawule, for his feature acting debut.
Batiste is set to portray Grady, husband to Shug Avery (played by Taraji P. Henson). The debonair, sweet-talking piano man is described as “the epitome of charm and eloquence.”
He joins a star-studded cast led by Fantasia Barrino (in her own feature film debut) as Celie, a Black woman whose personal awakening in the American South of the early 20th century is at the center of this epic story. The full ensemble boasts Danielle Brooks as Sofia, Henson as Shug Avery, Colman Domingo as Mister, Corey Hawkins as Harpo, H.E.R. as Squeak, Halle Bailey as Young Nettie, Ciara as Nettie, Elizabeth Marvel as Miss Millie, David Alan Grier as Reverend Avery, Tamala J. Mann as First Lady, Phylicia Pearl Mpasi as Young Celie, Deon Cole as Alfonso, Stephen Hill as Buster, Oscar winner Louis Gossett Jr. as Ol’ Mister and recent Oscar nominee Aunjanue Ellis as Mama, mother to Celie and Nettie.
The forthcoming Warner Bros. musical movie is an adaptation of Alice Walker’s iconic American novel, as well as the Oscar-nominated 1985 film from Steven Spielberg and Tony Award-winning Broadway musical that it inspired. Oprah Winfrey, who made her feature acting debut in that movie, is producing the new project under her Harpo Films banner; Spielberg also returns to produce for his Amblin Entertainment. Scott Sanders and Quincy Jones, both of whom produced the Broadway musical, are also producers. Alice Walker, Rebecca Walker, Mara Jacobs, Carla Gardini, Kristie Macosko Krieger and Adam Fell are executive producers.
Batiste is perhaps best known as the bandleader and musical director of “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert” on CBS, where he’s served since 2015. Despite this marking his first film role, Batiste is already an Oscar winner. In 2020, Batiste won the best original score prize for Disney-Pixar’s “Soul,” an honor he shared with fellow composers Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. In doing so, Batiste became the second Black composer in history, after legendary jazz musician Herbie Hancock, to win an Academy Award in that category.
Outside the realm of film and television, the New Orleans-born musician nabbed his first Grammy nomination (for best American Roots performance) in 2018, followed by two more in 2020 for albums he self-produced, “Chronology of a Dream: Live at the Village Vanguard” and “Meditations” (with Cory Wong). His 2021 studio album “We Are” was released to overwhelming critical acclaim, contributing heavily to Batiste’s massive tally of 11 Grammy nominations across seven categories. Following his five Grammy wins and rousing performance during the telecast, Batiste’s music enjoyed a 950% increase in streaming.